Monday, April 28, 2014

Taking back Boylston!

It was hot and super sunny, but it was still so amazing I don't really have the words to describe it.  My sunburn still hurts a week later but my smile hasn't faded yet.  It still doesn't seem real, more like a dream that happened and I woke up and went to work and life went on, but for one day, for five hours (plus six hours waiting to start), I was part of the greatest day ever.

The whole weekend was really fun.  Friday I sat at work counting the hours and minutes until I could leave and go to the Expo, finally I couldn't take it anymore and I left around 2:30.  It took me alomst 45 minutes to drive the mile and a half from Cambridge to parking in Boston for the Hynes Convention center.  I met my friend Collette at the Marriott Copley Place to check in with Dana Farber first.  Then we went to the Expo to get our bib numbers.  It was so crowded already.  We walked around and bought a few things, but then we left to go get food and drinks with a few other people at Forum across the street.  It was getting late and I was running the 5K in the morning so we wrapped it up and called it a day.

Saturday morning was a beautiful day to run.  It was cool and crisp, only about 40 degrees out, but partly sunny and no wind.  I lined up in the Boston Common with 10,000 other runners and completed the BAA 5K in a little over 30 minutes.  I just wanted to take it really easy and enjoy the run, no point pushing it since I had a more important race to think about in 2 days.  Afterwards I went to the expo again with my friend Patty this time.  I found a nice hooded sweatshirt I hadn't seen the day before and then drove Patty back to Dracut before going home to shower and get some lunch.  I met my friend Kim and her kids at my favorite local eatery, Life Alive and brought them some cheering supplies for Monday.

Sunday I relaxed all morning and then got ready for the Dana Farber Pasta Party.  Around 2:00 my friends Ann and Jack (aka my Massachusetts parents that now live in New Hampshire), picked me up and we drove to the Marriot for the pasta party.  As usual, it was an emotional and inspirational program with speakers and patient partners and in memory of partners and a few team mates and our coach Jack Fultz.  It was really nice and by 7:30 I was home and in bed with my alarm set for 2:35am.

Marathon Monday finally arrived and the morning was filled with excitement and energy.  I got dressed and drove into Boston to meet my team and take buses to Hopkinton.  Once in Hopkinton we waited and waited and waited.  We took some photos and waited some more.  Around 10:30 we made our way to the start corrals.  Slowly but surely we moved closer and closer to realizing the dream of running the 118th Boston Marathon. 

The first few miles are usually a blur, but this time was different.  There were a lot more specators than the 2 times I have run before.  If there was a space on the side of the road it was filled with people cheering.  And not just families on their front lawns like before, huge crowds of people crammed in shoulder to shoulder.  I even mentioned to a girl I was running with that I had never seen crowds like this and it was not normal that early on the course.

I kept a good even pace for the first half, right on where I wanted to be to finish in around 4:30-4:45.  Then it got hot.  And I had forgotten my salt pills at home thinking it was not going to be so warm out that I would need them.  I had them on the counter and ready to pack, then only realized I didn't have them when I was half way to Boston and it was too late to turn back.  I didn't think it was a big deal until Wellesley.  That's when I started to feel like running was harder and my legs were heavier.  I wanted to go fast but my body said NO.

I started dumping water on myself at every water stop, but it only made me soaking wet, not cooled off.  I made it to Newton and stopped at the mile 17 cheer station to hug Ann and Jack and then turned onto Comm Ave for the hills.  My race plan was to go out slow and steady then attack the hills.  I was able to power up the first hill and recover on the falt, but I could feel the effect on my heart and lungs.  It was too much, it was too hot.  My heartrate wouldn't recover and I was overheating so I decided to try and take it easy on the hills hoping to get a second wind on Beacon Street.

That didn't happen.  Beacon Street was as usual, long and grueling.  I walked a little and then shuffled and tried to run and got exhausted and walked some more.  Then I saw Collette and we were nearing the 24 miles marker.  I said come on, we can do this lets go.  I picked up the pace a little (not much, I mean from a 14 minute mile to maybe and 11 minute mile).  I decided it was only 2 miles, I could do it.  Collette hung in for a little bit and then I lost track of her.  I heard someone screaming my last name and I looked over and it was my friend Charles.  I went over to give him a hug and he said, how are you feeling you look great.  I said, "Oh my god, it's so hot, I feel like I'm dying".  He cheered me on and ran behind the spectators along the sidewalk for as long as he could yelling you got this, you can do it, go Alicia.  It was exactly what I needed.

Mile 25, I stopped again for hugs and high fives, then kept on moving.  My friend Patty was planning to be where I was last year so as I got closer to Mass Ave, I scanned the crowd and didn't see her.  It was so much more packed than last year.  I couldn't even see the sidewalk.  It was all people.  I ran under the overpass and out the other side and then I heard someone yelling my name.  It was Patty, she was on the other side.  I smiled and teared up a little knowing what came next.....right on Hereford, left on Boylston.

My mom was with a bunch of my friends on Boylston somewhere.  They told me they would try to be near Forum restaurant, but because that was the site of the second bomb blast last year I wasn't sure they would find a spot.  I knew they would at least be on that side of the street so I started looking.  Then as I approached Forum I found them.  A whole row of blue and yellow "Boston Strong" shirts.  I stopped and hugged them all.  I was so happy to see them and so overwhelmed.  I pointed to my arm, where I had Collette draw a heart and write "MOM" and said "Ok I gotta go finish this".

Boylston was alive and well.  It was electric and joyous and exactly as it should be on such a great day in the city of Boston.  I thought I would be emotional and I thought I would cry as I crossed the finish line but I didn't.  I think I was partly delirious and a little cranky from dehydration.  I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.  I didn't care about getting the food or gatorade or even water.  I kind of wanted a wheelchair, but I knew there were and might be people later that needed them more than me.  I eventually found a DFMC volunteer to guide me back to the hotel and to the recovery zone. 

I DID IT!  I ran the Boston Marathon again.  It wasn't pretty and it wasn't as fast as I wanted to finish in, but it was amazing.  I still can't believe it.  It really does feel like a dream.  I mean I have the medal and the photos to prove that it really happened and I really did run it, but it goes by so fast and then it's over and everyone moves on.  I kind of think that is what is needed as part of the healing process.  It was a big build up and a lot of emotion and a lot of expectations and excitement and now it's done.  Life goes on.  And the city can keep moving forward and runners can keep running and the survivors can stop being hounded for interviews and appearances and everyone can hopefully go back to living life to the fullest, the way it should be.  Bad things happen, but good people triumph and come out of tragedy STRONGER.

For example, so far I have raised ~$16,000 for innovative cancer research and as of the Sunday before the marathon, the Dana Farber Team as a whole had raised over $6 million!!!!  The marathon is over but the race to find a cure is not, I can still accept donations for several months.  Please send me a congrats "gift" and donate today: 

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